Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Security in the Library-Technology Brings a New Twist to an Old Problem. (Online Treasures)

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Security in the Library-Technology Brings a New Twist to an Old Problem. (Online Treasures)

Article excerpt

Security concerns may seem like a recent phenomenon brought on by new technology, as we worry about protecting our computer networks from malicious hackers and viruses, but we librarians have always been concerned about protecting our collections--and we have the reputation to prove it. Nearly every one of us has grimaced behind a polite smile while listening to the old, worn story about the school librarian who always closed the library so the students wouldn't disturb the books in their perfect order. Many libraries do have closed stacks to protect special collections, and even the old card catalog had its own low-tech security. Think back to the rod that ran through the holes in the bottom of the cards to protect them from accidentally being dumped onto the floor, that also served as a deterrent, admittedly imperfect, to pulling a card out to take along to the shelf.

Security concerns may not be new, but both the collections we are protecting and the tools we use to make our systems and collections secure are new and constantly changing. We can't close the "stacks" in a library that offers 24/7 access to the catalog and electronic resources, but we can use the most up-to-date procedures and tools to protect library assets.

Begin with the Basics

Many librarians who manage computer networks have not had formal training in technology, but have been drafted into the position and learned on the job. While experience can be a good teacher, it can also leave gaps in one's education, since knowledge gained will be limited to only that which has been experienced. Also, learning about security through experience may mean learning about it the hard way--after a hacker or a virus has compromised the network. It is preferable to learn about network security before the damage is done. A good place to begin is the About.com guide to Internet/Network Security. The site features a series of articles, titled Security 101, that introduce the beginner to basic concepts and actions that can be taken to protect computer networks. The site has a glossary, book and product reviews, a security FAQ, tutorials, and discussions of security for various operating systems including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and UNIX. There is also information on specific security topics, includi ng denial-of-service attacks, firewalls, hackers, viruses, and worms.

Once you've mastered the basic terms and concepts, it's time to move on to more in-depth study. You may find the Network Security Library useful as a next step. The site offers collections of articles, FAQs, white papers, and books on network security. I was pleased to see very recent articles, since information in this area changes very rapidly as new threats are recognized. You can browse the library by topic or author. In addition to the content on the site, there is also an annotated list of links to additional Web resources. Several electronic newsletters are also available to alert users to new content on the site.

Government Resources

The federal government offers a number of resources on computer security. The National Security Agency has security guides for various versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system, Cisco router guides, and e-mail and executable content guides. The guides are available as zipped archives and as downloadable single files. Additionally, the agency's Systems and Network Attack Center has prepared the "60 Minute Network Security Guide," which was updated in July 2002. It is available in Adobe PDF and can be found on several security-related sites.

The SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security) Institute and the FBI have compiled a list of the top 20 most critical Internet security vulnerabilities (last updated on March 3, 2003). Additional resources on security can be found on the SANS Institute site. There are free weekly newsletters with subscription information and archives available on the site, a reading room of over 1,300 articles in 63 categories, and samples of security policies. …

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